Revolutionary Brain Implant: Five Times Thinner than a Human Hair

New brain implant is five times thinner than a human hair

Implants that use tiny electrodes to read or stimulate neurons in the brain could potentially improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological limitations. This includes those who are paralyzed or blind, as brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) could hold the key to helping them walk, communicate, or see again. While there have been reports of success, the use of implanted BCIs in humans has been limited to scientific studies. One of the main concerns is the risk associated with surgical interventions in the head, as existing implants can cause inflammation and scarring, affecting their performance.

Precision Neuroscience, a start-up based in New York, aims to address these challenges by developing a more flexible and brain-friendly implant. According to the company, their implant can be implanted in a minimally invasive manner and offers better precision in mapping brain waves compared to previous designs. The implant, which is about one square centimeter in size and five times thinner than a hair, can be inserted through a millimeter-thin incision between the brain and skullcap. The electrodes rest on top of the brain tissue, eliminating the need for penetration. Furthermore, these electrodes can not only detect brain signals but also stimulate neurons by sending electrical impulses into the brain.

The novel brain-computer interface developed by Precision Neuroscience was tested on three patients at West Virginia University’s Rockefeller Neuroscience Institute (WVU RNI) during tumor surgery. The implant, in contact with the brain for approximately 15 minutes, successfully read, recorded, and mapped neuronal activity in real-time. According to Peter Konrad, a researcher at WVU RNI, this achievement provides valuable insights into brain activity, akin to “watching the patient’s brain think.”

Neurosurgeon Benjamin Rapoport, the scientific director of Precision Neuroscience and a co-founder of Neuralink, led the study. Neuralink, another company working on brain-computer interfaces, has gained attention for its achievements, such as enabling monkeys to play mind pong. Recently, Neuralink obtained FDA approval for human testing, although it has faced criticism regarding animal welfare requirements.

Two years ago, Precision Neuroscience tested the safety of its implant on miniature pigs from Göttingen. The tests were successful, with no damage observed in the animals’ brains. The start-up now plans to seek FDA permission to conduct research on humans for up to 30 days using the flexible implant. Longer measurement periods could offer new insights into brain function, aid in diagnosing tumors and epilepsy, and ultimately develop technical solutions for individuals with neurological diseases and disabilities.

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